Shane Perry, who plays guitar, sings, and writes songs for the Nashville rock band The Medium, says the group’s new album, For Horses, “is about leaving home.” As such, the record moves deftly among in-between spaces: between vintage sounds and modern ones, humor and sincerity, old stomping grounds and whatever lies down the road. “I’m having trouble adjusting to the world,” singer-bassist and songwriter Sam Silva admits on “Same Boat,” a woozy cut that encapsulates the band’s knack for channeling classic pop and psych-rock. “Nightmares, daydreams — what does it mean?”
The Medium’s first album, 2019’s Get It While It’s Hot, was bright and breezy and showed how well the band — Perry, Silva, guitarist-vocalist Michael Brudi and percussionist Jared Hicks — knew their way around a pop song. For Horses is recognizably the work of the same band, but one that’s now more confident, more ambitious, and more comfortable in the studio (Jake Davis, who produced Get It While It’s Hot, returns here). Opening track “Don’t Stay Out” wastes no time signaling the shift, as a dazzling four-part a capella verse gives way to a piano-rock tune punctuated by filigrees of saxophone. Midway through the album, “Let’s Get Together” and “Space Force” form a sort of two-song suite, mirroring each others’ lyrics while showcasing the band’s stylistic breadth: lo-fi southern soul and a serrated, Motown-inspired rave-up.
These songs can be irreverent and heartfelt, sometimes within the span of a single lyric, a tension that’s crucial even as Perry and Silva say it’s not necessarily thought out in advance. “Goodbye Afternoon,” which could scan as either a look back at disappearing youth or an almost deadpan accounting of a day’s end, is one of several songs that seemed to flow out fully formed. “It’s like you’re an archeologist and you dust it off, and there’s a dinosaur,” Perry says. “Still the Best” chronicles the bittersweet feeling of watching friends come and go from your life, not for any conflict but just because that’s how things go sometimes. Silva emerged with “No Highway Cowboys,” on the other hand, from a Wikipedia rabbit-hole on diphthongs. In The Medium’s world, the stirring piano ballad that makes you want to happy-cry can absolutely be called “Space Horse.”
The songs on For Horses “just come to you, and then you kind of derive the meaning from it much later,” Perry explains. “We’ve been sitting with these for a long time.” Though some were written as recently as 2020, others date to well before Get It While It’s Hot; the set’s tightness and consistency is a testament to years of sharpening songs in live settings, and the fact that it’s their first album of songs all written after the band’s formation — it is, as Perry and Brudi both emphasize, “our record.”
This album about leaving home ends with the four members leaving home together. Games of HORSE played outside the home the bandmates shared while writing many of these songs inspired “Four Horses,” a reminder to revel in the moment: “Everybody’s looking for an answer, but they should be splashing in the rain.” They’ve since moved out and into separate places, but the record stands as a monument to their two years in that house. It was a big old white stone thing, Silva remembers, an “ugly building next to a Walgreens.” His smile is audible as he describes it. “It looked great inside.”